March 9, 1998 in Features

Nbc Needs More Than ‘House Rules’

John Martin New York Times Syndicate
 

No one knows how NBC will ever find a series to replace “Seinfeld.” A new adult comedy that bursts unexpectedly on the scene and becomes prime time’s Next Big Thing would be a dream come true for NBC executives.

It’s highly unlikely that “House Rules,” premiering at 8:30 on NBC, will be that Next Big Thing. Crafted more along the lines of “Friends,” it’s based on three friends-for-life roommates in Denver who are coping with careers and romance.

In the pilot, Casey (Maria Pitillo) makes a hasty decision to move to Paris with her colorless but successful boyfriend (Jeff Yagher), leaving behind her stunned pals McCusky (David Newsom) and Riley (Bradley White).

Despite interviewing an oversexed ski bunny (guest-star Lisa Rinna) looking to share an apartment, the guys are devastated by the thought of living without Casey. Each reveals the depth of the relationship by offering a last-minute marriage proposal as a way of getting her to stay.

It’s sweet but not terribly funny. And next week’s episode treads too-familiar ground when McCusky and Riley deal with the consequences of wimping out when Casey (surprise, she stays) is hassled in a bar by a muscle-bound suitor.

Unlike the “Friends” merrymakers, Pitillo, Newsom and White more or less fade into the sitcom wallpaper. Where’s the high energy, wild antics and physical humor (think of “Spin City” and “3rd Rock”) needed to lift a comedy over the top?

Sorry, NBC. No early signs of this one becoming a “must-see” show.

Highlights

“Cosby,” CBS at 8: Pauline (Madeline Kahn) takes Hilton’s (Bill Cosby) advice and writes a play about someone “real” rather than the fictional character she’s struggling with. So she writes about him.

He, of course, is the only one who doesn’t recognize the blowhard - until he’s cast in the role.

“Ally McBeal,” FOX at 9: Fans won’t want to miss this clever episode in which talented Tracey Ullman guest-stars as a therapist who suggests Ally (Calista Flockhart) take extreme means to deal with her feelings about Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith).

“Dateline NBC,” NBC at 10: A report profiles a college exchange student who says she was raped by her Japanese “host father.”

Cable Calls

“Biography,” A&E; at 5 and 9: Beam aboard for a look at the life and times of actor William Shatner.

“The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Ceremony,” SHOW at 8: Garry Marshall, Diane Sawyer, Grant Tinker, James L. Brooks and the late Quinn Martin are inducted. Marshall’s acceptance speech is delightfully funny.

“Indiscretion of An American Wife” (1998), LIFE at 9: Anne Archer plays the neglected wife of a preoccupied diplomat (Michael Murphy) who must make a choice when she falls in love with a handsome Italian vintner (Andrea Occhipinti).

Archer’s convincing performance helps, but if you’re not in the mood, it becomes rather tedious. It’s a remake of the 1953 film starring Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones.

“New Attitudes,” LIFE at 11: New for women is this half-hour weeknight series addressing topics ranging from beauty tips to travel and finance. You’ve seen it all before but probably never at this hour.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Actress Minnie Driver, actor Matthew Modine and actor-comedian Carrot Top.

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actor Robin Williams, comedian Dave Chappelle and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Repeat.


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